Jim Siergey: Cosmic Connection

December 7th, 2017

Leonard and I always had a “cosmic” connection. It may have been because we met during the purple haze of an LSD-fueled summer but it persisted way beyond that.

It was 1969. My friends and I, along with a great deal of the population during that period, spent a lot of time getting high. We mostly convened at Mike’s apartment where we lived it up, smoking, drinking and tripping to our hearts’ contents.

That summer, Leonard moved into the apartment across the hall from Mike.

There was something different about Leonard. Unlike us, he wasn’t from Cicero so the tinge of the Sanitary District and the racetrack wasn’t upon him. He wasn’t edgy, paranoid and sullenly sarcastic. He was rather serene and peaceful, Zen-like even.

We started hanging out more at Leonard’s.

Leonard and I spent many a trip together that psychedelic summer, often engaging in bouts of heavy rapping—the antiquated kind, man.

One time there was a rap session going on that was way over my head. When asked why I was so quiet, I said, “I don’t know what to say. I’m not an intellectual like you guys.”

To this, Leonard replied “Of course you are, you’re an artist.”

It was like an Aqua Velva slap in the face. I had never before been referred to as an artist or an intellectual.

That was only one of a few eye-opening comments from Leonard that got me to start thinking differently about myself— and everything else.

In fact, it was Leonard who told me one day something about the girl with whom I was hanging around.

“She loves you, man.”

That “she” eventually became and remains my wife. Yes, one sometimes needs a little help from one’s friends to get by.

hippiesgroupshot

They were all just a bunch of freaks, enjoying life…

 

The summer ended and Leonard went away to school. We still kept in touch via the post, again the antiquated kind.

He lived and schooled in New Mexico and Arizona and eventually found himself married and living on a farm in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

By this time I was also married and had two children and one summer we decided to camp throughout the Show Me State so we arranged a visit with Leonard.

When we finally arrived at his home, he wasn’t there. A note on his door explained that he was at the hospital as his son was being born.

The door was invitingly unlocked and there were farm animals to entertain the kids so we awaited Leonard’s return.

We spent some time together that evening but considerately left the next day. As time silently tolled and life rolled on, we lost touch with one another.

Then one night, a dozen years ago, Leonard suddenly appeared in my dreams. I hadn’t thought about him for years and it had been even longer than that since we had communicated. I thought it odd that he should suddenly pop into my head like that so, out of curiosity, I decided to Google him.

I discovered that he had become a respected professor of agronomy and had taught at various universities in different parts of the country. I found the one where he presently taught and an email link directly to his office.

I typed up a pithy yet intimate email, explaining my cosmic motivation for writing as well as encapsulating my life over the past couple of decades into a paragraph and sent it off. I didn’t really expect a reply but hoped there would be one.

There was.

Leonard wrote back, pleased with hearing from me and encapsulated his life as well. However, the email didn’t end well. He had just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was about to undergo treatment. He asked me to keep a good thought for him.

I did. But pancreatic cancer, man, that’s a tough one to beat.

A few months later I received an email from his son (the very same one born the day when I had last seen Leonard) informing me that cancer had claimed another victim. Leonard was gone.

I’m not a spiritual person or a believer in omens and otherworldly things but it was strange that Leonard should appear to me in a dream, as if I were being beckoned to contact him so we could have a last hello and good-bye.

The other day I unearthed a box full of old correspondence and assorted effluvia. In it I found some letters from Leonard when he was living in Tucson in the early ‘70s. In one of them he mentioned that he dropped his motorcycle and it had put a dent in his right hand and cut off the end of his lifeline.

When I read his coda to that comment–“I sure hope palmistry is full of shit.”–a shiver went through me.

 

Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Moby Dark

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Randolph Street: Unmeltable Snow

December 6th, 2017

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Wrigley Field–Chicago

 

Snow doesn’t melt–it wears out.

 

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# 2

 

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#3

 

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#4

 

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#5

 

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Gate R

 

All photos © Jon Randolph 2014

 

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Randolph Street: House Of Dolls

November 29th, 2017

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Doll House–Chicago

 

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Rooflines

 

3IMG_3162Doll House

 

4IMG_3163Church Door

 

5IMG_3070State & Lake

 

 

All photos © Jon Randolph 2015

jonrandolph.com

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Jim Siergey: Moby Dark

November 29th, 2017

Call me Ishkabibble.

A year or so ago, hoping to improve my lot in life, I signed onto a whaling ship, “The Pique Wad”.

The crew was an irritable bunch full of resentment and entitlement but extremely loyal to their captain, whose name and appearance I had yet to learn or espy, but they welcomed me aboard with open arms and nimble hands that sprightly rifled through my pockets.

After setting sail, it took me only a few days to realize that many of these men had never before been at sea. Besides their overall attitude of shirking actual work and the distaste of getting their hands dirty, they did almost every thing in the exact opposite manner in which it should be done.

They battened up the hatches, unhoisted the main sail and what they did with the mizzenmast was a scandal. This bizarre behavior shivered my very timbers.

I did make friends with one of the mates, a man who seemed to at least try and do his job properly. He was the ship communicator and went by the name of Spi-Spice.

One night, over a few cups of grog, he told me a bit about the captain who had yet to make his appearance on deck.

“He’s a mountain of a man,” Spi-Spice informed me, “full of bluster and blarney. Be not offput by some of his language, especially with regards to the fairer sex—it’s just Davy Jones locker talk.”

Before he could continue, he passed out, falling asleep between a row of potted plants.

“He must have been bushed.” I thought to myself.

The next morning the first mate-in-law, Ja the Red, assembled the crew together whereupon he proclaimed to us that the captain, whose name I learned was Captain Ablab, would appear and speak to us.

As we stood in silence we heard the dull thud of heavy footsteps laboriously climbing the stairs from below. The door opened and out stepped a hulk of a man. His great orange beard waved in the wind like a bedspread that was crocheted with slices of Velveeta™. His clothing was gold lamé and the top of his head was swaddled in a red bandana. The bandana continued downwards wrapping around his neck and even further downwards covering and protecting his privates from enviable ogling.

His ornamentation was quite ornate.

jimsiergeymobydickDeep in the sea…

 

He eyed us all, smirked and then in a voice that sounded like a cash register drawer being repeatedly opened and slammed shut, he spoke.

“Men, I am glad to see you all on board with me, the greatest captain who ever sailed the seven seas. In fact, I am so great, I have sailed EIGHT SEAS! I’m sure you will have a…”

Then he stopped. Spi-Spice nudged me and explained, “Fret not. He speaks only in 140 characters at a time.”

Ablab continued “… terrific, beautiful time here on this ship, the greatest ship that has ever been built. I mean, this was built by the very, very best shipbuilders in existence. You’re going to…

… love it, believe me.”

He paused again and not sure of what we should do, we all gave him three hurrahs.

This seemed to please Captain Ablab. He soaked it in and encouraged us to give him three more hurrahs. And when they had subsided, he coaxed three more from us.

Beaming, Ablab continued, “As you know, we are here to make the oceans great again. I, and I alone will do that. But first, we must rid the waters of that briny scourge, the Great Black Whale.”

We all gasped.

“Yes, me hearties, we must overturn and destroy any scrap of evidence that that interloping behemoth, that foreigner to our seas, that deflater of my ego, ever existed…

…We must wipe out Mobama Dick!”

The crowd hurrahed again, but this time, tinged with an air of confusion.

I certainly was confused. I thought the object of whaling was to capture the beast for what it could give us and society, meat to feed the hungry, ribs as construction to build shelters for the homeless, other bone to be used for art, utensils and tools as well as blubber to be processed into oil to be used for lamps to help us find our way.

When he began to speak about another leviathan, a great she-whale that needed to be locked up and paraded before gawkers in some sort of aquatic carnival, I realized that I had boarded a ship of fools.

Among this cantankerous crew, I suppose, were some good people. It was them that I would need to convince and conspire with as it appeared that the only available route to right this reckless ship was one of resistance—an act of mutiny.

Thar she blows!

 

Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was A Trip To Mars

 

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Jim Siergey: A Trip To Mars

November 19th, 2017

We were driving back to Chicago from a stay in northern Wisconsin. As we neared the Illinois border my wife suggested we stop at Mars Cheese Castle for a pit stop and to perhaps grab a bite to eat.

As any Chicagoan who has traveled north of the border knows, Mars Cheese Castle is a landmark. It has been around since 1947 but only in recent years has it undergone reconstruction and now actually looks like a castle…by midwestern standards, anyway.

There is an abundance of cheese to be purchased there but also sausages, meats, chocolates, bakery items (Kringles!), wines and locally brewed beers. There is also a stand where one can buy ready made food and, of course, the long-time horseshoe-shaped bar where you can sit and toss back a tall one.

As I viewed a poster extolling their new beer, “Mars Red Planet Ale” (get it, huh, get it?), I wished I cared more for beer because I was tempted to purchase some but I knew that after tasting one bottle, the rest would sit around for years.

The wife and I both wandered away in different directions as we purveyed the various rooms within the castle. I was surveying one of the cheese displays when I heard a voice next to me say, “Hey, look, they have ‘Chocolate Cheese’.”

Now that I am an old man I have no compunctions against directing my comments toward strangers so I tossed my two cents into the ether.

“They used to call it ‘Chudge’.”

I looked to my side and saw a thin, young man in a crewcut looking quizzically at me.

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Jim is not from Wisconsin–but these guys…

 

For the young man’s benefit, I expounded, “Y’know, Cheese…Fudge, Chudge! They stopped calling it that years ago as I guess it wasn’t descriptive enough but it’ll always be Chudge to me.”

“Oh.” he responded in comprehension and then asked, “How’s it taste?”

“Well, it kinda tastes like cheese and it sorta tastes like chocolate.”, I clumsily explained in overtly obvious terms, ” It is quite a perfect blend but…” I dramatically paused as to allow the gravity of what I was about to say grab his attention span sturdily by the shoulders and look him straight in the eyes before continuing, “…it is not for all tastes. Many people do not like it. Many people will not even deign to taste it! However, my wife and I, we do like it.”

I could see the scales in the head of this young man weighing the pros and cons of what I had just revealed to him. He looked at me and asked his follow up question.

“Are you from Wisconsin?”

“No”, I replied, perhaps a bit too quickly, “I’m from over the border but I’ve been here many times.”

He then revealed to me that he was from Kentucky and he was stopping here on his way home. He thanked me and we parted company. Perhaps it was the permeating aroma of casein but I felt that a sense of interstate diplomacy had taken place.

I found my wife by the deli case where she was being educated on the difference between braunschweiger and liverwurst. We were given a sample of liverwurst to taste and I reacted by stating that it was the best damn liverwurst I had ever tasted.

We left with a purchase of a pound of that tantalizing spread and a loaf of cocktail rye of which, when we returned home, we oven-toasted and consumed several slices topped with a thick schmeer of liverwurst and a slice of onion.

Sometimes, life is good, eh?

 

Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Joe Henry

 

 

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Jim Siergey: Joe Henry

November 10th, 2017

I dreamt that I was in a music store in Evanston where I overheard some buzz about Joe Henry coming into the place.

(Joe Henry is an American singer and songwriter. He has a unique jazz-oriented sound and his lyrics and voice can be dreamlike. Coincidence? I think not.)

I thought that perhaps he’d play, put on an impromptu little concert or something, so I decided to stick around.

While I was waiting I felt like I should do something so I grabbed a paint brush and begin painting on a back drop that was hanging against a wall in the rear of the shop.

All I had to work with was a can of black paint so I outlined some of the designs but it got rather boring and it was not a very good brush so I decided to stop but I needed to clean the brush.

There were a few stairs to the left of me that led to the basement so down I went. To my surprise the basement had been entirely cleared out. There wasn’t even a sink.

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Sing it, Joe…

 

I went back upstairs and I noticed someone washing his hands beneath a tiny tap that was inserted into the corner where two walls met. I asked him if that was the only available running water and he said it was. He also told me that I could use it to clean the brush.

There was nothing beneath the tap so the water ran right onto the floor but I did my best to rinse off the brush without making too much of a mess. (I’m a considerate fellow even while asleep.)

Just then Joe Henry came in. He and the music store owner began speaking and moving around in such a manner that it seemed like a play.

“Oh”, I thought, “Perhaps it’s some sort of performance art.”

But, after a few moments of what seemed like theatrical interplay, Joe Henry went and sat down on one side of two long tables that had little cubicle-like dividers.

Placed on the table top within the dividers were keyboards inside an open-topped wooden box.

As he began tinkering with the keys, I noticed that there were a handful of other people situated at some of the other keyboard cubicles and they were all playing various riffs and scales and the sort.

I realized that they were here to practice their piano playing, as was Joe. Apparently, besides being a music store, this was a practice room for musicians.

There would be no impromptu concert.

The sounds of all the various people practicing various riffs resulted in a gentle cacophony.

Disappointed, I donned my coat and hat and walked down the aisle to leave. While doing so, Joe Henry abruptly got up and we bumped into one another.

Curiously, up close he looked like a young Jimmie Page with a touch of Oscar Wilde.

Since he was now aware of my presence I related to him this very tale.

When I finished, he blankly looked at me and then walked on by.

(Dionne Warwick, I’m with you, girl.)

 

Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Par Boiled

 

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Randolph Street: The Woods

November 8th, 2017

1DSCF0614Fisherman–Lac Seul, Canada

 

2DSCF0542Shore Formation

 

3DSCF0564Merganser

 

4DSCF0549Dusk

 

5DSCF0592Month Old Moose

 

6DSCF0551Moonrise

 

All photos © Jon Randolph

jonrandolph.com

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